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The Camp Fire Girls at Sunrise Hill   By: (1876-)

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By Margaret Vandercook

First of a series



Betty Ashton sighed until the leaves of the book she held in her hand quivered, then she flung it face downward on the floor.

"Oh dear, I do wish some one would invent something new for girls!" she exclaimed, although there was no one in the room to hear her. "It seems to me that all girls do nowadays is to imitate boys. We play their games, read their old books and even do their work, when all the time girls are really wanting girl things. I agree with King Solomon: 'The thing that hath been, it is that which, shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun.' At least not for girls!"

Then with a laugh at her own pessimism, Betty, like Hamlet, having found relief in soliloquy, jumped up from her chair and crossing her room pressed the electric button near the fireplace until the noise of its ringing reverberated through the big, quiet house.

"There, that ought to bring some one to me at last," she announced. "Three times have I rung that bell and yet no one has answered. Do the maids in this house actually expect me to build my own fire? I suppose I could do it if I tried."

She glanced at the pile of kindling inside her wood box and then at the sweet smelling pine logs standing nearby, but the thought of actually doing something for herself must have struck her as impossible, for the next moment she turned with a shiver to stare through the glass of her closed window, first up toward the sullen May sky and then down into her own garden.

Outside the gray clouds were slowly pursuing one another against a darker background and in the garden the lilacs having just opened their white and purple blossoms were now looking pale and discouraged as though born too soon into a world that was failing to appreciate them.

In spite of her petulance Betty laughed. She was wearing a blue dressing gown and her red brown hair was caught back with a velvet ribbon of the same shade. Her room was in blue, "Betty's Blue" as her friends used to call it, the color that is neither light nor dark, but has soft shadows in it.

Betty herself was between fifteen and sixteen. She had gray eyes, a short, straight nose and her head, which was oddly square, conveyed an effect of refinement that was almost disdain. Her mouth was a little discontented and somehow she gave one the impression that, though she had most of the things other girls wish for, she was still seeking for something.

"The outdoors is as dismal as I am, no wonder we used to be sun worshipers," she said after a few more minutes of waiting; "but since Prometheus stole the fire from heaven some ages ago, I really don't see why I should have to freeze because the sun won't shine."

Frowning and gathering her dressing gown more closely about her with another impatient gesture, Betty swept out into the hall.

The house was strangely silent for the middle of a week day afternoon; not a sound came either from below stairs or above, not the rattle of a window blind nor the echo of a single pair of footsteps.

At some time has a sudden silence ever fallen upon you with a sense of foreboding like the hour before a storm or the moment preceding some unexpected news or change in your life?

Betty hurried toward the back stairs. She was leaning over the banisters and had called once for one of the maids, when she ceased abruptly, and stood still for several moments with her head tilted back and her body tense with surprise.

So long as Betty could recall, there had been a vacant room in the rear of the old Ashton homestead, which had stood for more than a hundred years at the comer of Elm Street in Woodford, New Hampshire. She was stupider than other people about remembering the events of her childhood and yet she was sure that this room had never been used for any purpose save as a storehouse for old pieces of furniture, for discarded pictures, for any odds and ends that found no other resting place about the great house... Continue reading book >>

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